Saturday, 25 April 2020

Hatherton Branch Canal

Hatherton Branch Canal
April 2020

Now let's be clear, the Hatherton Branch Canal never was part of the BCN although the Churchbridge Locks (and branch) were.


The Hatherton Branch Canal with the Churchbridge Locks

Whilst it is not part of the BCN, its operation was so embedded into the northern section of the BCN I think it's fair to say they share a common DNA. And for that reason I have chosen to include it in this record of old lost BCN canal photos.

It was the one and only significant branch canal built by the Staffs and Worcester Canal Company, built in 1841 to reach the collieries and brickworks in and around Churchbridge. 
The 'Hatherton' moniker is attributable to Lord Hatherton, director of the Staffs and Worcs and  the entire 3.5 mile branch canal ran through his land, which meant no approvals were needed from Parliament.

The canal operated as a branch canal for 22 years with its terminal basin being close to the Hatherton Reservoir, but in 1863 a through route was added via 13 new locks at Churchbridge (now the Cannock Orbital Retail Park) to the extensive coalfields served by the BCN's Cannock Extension Canal.

The Churchbridge Locks were something of an interface between the Staffs and Worcs and the BCN, with the BCN buying the land but the Staffs and Worcs paying for the construction of the locks. This link into the BCN proved very successful for the Staffs and Worcs and even in 1902, 12,000 tons of coal came onto the Churchbridge Branch via the locks.

Trade continued as long as the coal reserves existed, but it officially closed in 1949 with the last commercial boat making a passage in 1951 and (there is always one) a private hire  boat forced an agonising last passage in 1952.

There are long term plans to restore this back door into the BCN using the original Hatherton line as far as its old terminus, before breaking off on a new route to the south.

I have ordered the photos as we go down the canal from the foot of the Churchbridge Locks.


Watling Street Bridge (A5) over canal (now a roundabout)

White Lion Pub and A5 bridge over Canal


Watling Street Bridge (left), Gilpins Works and Churchbridge Locks

White Lion Pub at foot of the Churchbridge locks in 1926

Early view of Gilpins Basin and works


Gilpins Works and Basin

Gilpins Basin at the foot of the locks


Canal Channel at Churchbridge

The foot and railway bridge at Bridgtown Arthur Watts (CRT Archive)


The same twin arches when the M6 Toll was built

Near Churchbridge

The Razza -  AKA the Hatherton Reservoir 

Hawkins Basin - the old canal terminus 1920

Lift bridge into Hawkins Basin by A Muir White 1957

Lift Bridge at entrance to Hawkins Basin

Entrance to Hawkins Basin (CRT Archive)

Aqueduct into Hawkins basin revealed during M6 Toll construction

Bridgtown Top and Middle Locks

Bridgtown Top Tock 1971 - Barrie Hurley

Hawkins Works with Hawkins and Bridgtown Locks beyond


Walkmill lock Keeper's Cottage late 1950's

Concrete lining at Bridgtown (A Muir White CRT Archive)

Concrete Lining at Bridgtown (A Muir White CRT Archive)

Walkmill Lane

Remains of Jovey's Lock

Jovey's Lock

Bridgtown Bottom Lock (left) to Jovey's Lock (right)

Wedges Mill Bridge

Wedges Mill Lock (4)

Wedges Mill Lock (4)


Swimming at Wedges Mill

The last passage (John Liley)


The Boat Museum Society November 2017



Aerial views of the Hatherton Branch

Cherry Tree Bridge (8 ) with towpath ramp added - Andy Tidy

Meadow Lock (3) today

Meadow Lock (3) Carol Cooper

Meadow Lock (3) Carol Cooper

Meadow Lock (3) Carol Cooper


Meadow Lock (3) Carol Cooper

Remains of Bridge below Meadow Lock - Andy Tidy


Bridge below Meadow Lock - Carol Cooper



Duncan Moore

 Catch Catch Bridge (7) after mining subsidence

Catch Bridge (7) during demolition - Eric Wood

Catch bridge launch site for the Dingy Dawdle - Duncan Moore

Duncan Moore at Catch Bridge


Site of Catch Bridge (7) - Duncan Moore

 Site of Catch (or Cats) Bridge 7 1986 - Trevor Littlewood


East towards Catch Bridge - Duncan Moore


Looking west from Catch Bridge (7) - Duncan Moore

Cross Bridge (5) looking east in 1970 - Barrie Harley

Upstream from Cross Bridge (5) - 1970 - Barrie Harley


Cross Bridge (5) and Dinghy Dawdle - Duncan Moore

Cross Bridge (5) looking west- Barrie Harley

Downstream from Four Cross Bridge (Bridge 5)

Duncan Moore

East from Cross Bridge (5) 1986 - Trevor Littlewood

East from Cross Bridge (5)



Saredon Mill Bridge (4) looking east


Saredon Mill Bridge (4) by Duncan Moore

Saredon Bridge (4) 1971 Barrie Harley

 Scrawpers End Bridge Bridge 4 (D Benson)

 Scrawpers End Bridge (D Benson)

 Scrawpers End Bridge (D Benson)

North from Scrawpers Bridge (2) 1986 - Trevor Littlewood

Feeder from Gailey Reservoir - Barrie Harley



Duncan Moore

Duncan Moore

Bridge 3 (Scrawpers) by Barrie Harley 1971


Scrawpers End (3) today

Limited Headroom at Scrawpers by Duncan Moore

M6 Culvert Barrie Harley

M6 obstruction 1991 - Duncan Moore

M6 crossing - Barrie Harley


Negotiating the M6 by Duncan Moore


Launch at the Straight Mile - Duncan Moore




























 Dingy Dawdle  in 1991 from Straight Mile


Duncan Moore

Decaying boats above Lock two

Decaying day boats above Lock Two - Duncan Moore

Above Lock 2 - Duncan Moore


Lock 2 by Duncan Moore

Lock 2 at Calf Heath adapted to dry dock

Basin between Locks One and Two - Duncan Moore

Calf Heath bottom lock - Athur Watts CRT Archive

Lock One in use - Duncan Moore

Duncan Moore

Arthur Watts - CRT Archive

Barrie Harley 1971 - Cannock Library


Graham Moore

Portaging dinghy Dawdle at Hatherton Bottom Lock

Junction Bridge and bottom lock - Arthur Watts CRT Archive


Hatherton Junction with the Staffs and Worcester Canal (Tom Manning)

Calf Heath Junction - Barrie Harley



The above photos have been assembled from various sources, including those freely found on the internet. My thanks go to the many photographers alive and dead who have contributed to this collection and in so doing, are keeping the memory of these lost canals alive. These images are reproduced for ease of research are are not necessarily the property of this blog, and as such should not be used for commercial gain without the explicit permission of the owner (whoever that may be).

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